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Government employment reforms

Published (2/11/2011)
By Nick Busse
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A House committee approved a plan to bring state employee salaries in line with their counterparts in the private sector.

Sponsored by Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina), HF192 would freeze state employee salaries and initiate a compensation study comparing government salaries to those in the private sector. Upon completion of the study, the state would initiate a new employee pay structure based on the study’s findings.

In addition, the bill would require state agencies to contract out state services to private companies if they can do it at a lower cost to the state.

Members of the House Government Operations and Elections Committee voted 9-6 to approve the measure Feb. 10. It now goes to the House State Government Finance Committee. There is no Senate companion.

“The intent of this bill is to create a new and dynamic employment model for state workers,” Downey said, adding that the bill would “empower” state workers to help improve and transform government services.

The bill, which would apply only to executive and legislative-branch employees, would also establish a “gain-sharing system.” Employees who invent ways to reduce the cost of government services would be awarded a one-time bonus of up to 10 percent of the documented cost-savings to the state.

Opponents said many public-sector jobs don’t exist in the private sector, and doubted whether a salary comparison would be possible, let alone appropriate.

“How do you compare the salary of a state trooper to the private sector? Probably you’re not going to use the Southdale mall cops as a comparison,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley).

Lobbyists from various public employee unions argued the bill would violate their collective bargaining rights.

“We shouldn’t use the current budget crisis to undermine our public employee unions. They didn’t cause the problem, and we should be working together to solve it,” said Russ Stanton, director of government relations for the Inter Faculty Organization.

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